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NMFS lauds county's salmon recovery effort

"Kitsap County's natural resources planners have made an environmental impression. In the National Marine Fisheries Service's final ruling on endangered salmon species, Kitsap County is recognized for innovative local efforts to restore and protect salmon habitat.It's nice to have some pats on the back in the federal register, said county natural resources coordinator Keith Folkerts. Again, it's a reaffirmation that the work we've been doing is on the right track.NMFS posted the 61-page text of its final ruling on its Web site last week.Folkerts said the ruling is what county planners expected. In our discussions with NMFS, we heard the types of changes and that it would be made clear, he said.County coordinators had requested clarifications of an earlier draft ruling, wondering whether all the requirements to protect habitat must be met for an exemption and if exemptions given to the Oregon Department of Transportation for routine maintenance would apply in Washington. (We wondered if) we'd be able to plug into other exemptions in the rule. It wasn't clear if we were also included, Folkerts said.According to the final listing, Washington is eligible for the Oregon DOT's exemptions, given the activity is the same.Cases that might harm habitat will be evaluated individually, according to the report, dependent upon the facts and circumstances of each case.NMFS will focus on activities that fall under categories most likely to cause harm, including construction, alteration or contamination.The NMFS ruling applies to endangered runs of Puget Sound chinook and Hood Canal summer chum. The 4(d) rule of the Endangered Species Act opens the county to third party lawsuits if listed species or habitat is harmed."

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